Thracian artefacts are an example of how objects are capable of preserving spectacular history full of ancient myths, figures and heroes so famous that legends keep them alive even nowadays, chronological moments that people can experience and observe at museums and galleries, and old culture that goes as far back as to 4th century BC.
From silver kylixes to beautiful wine drinking cups, Vasil Bojkov’s collections is one of the most magnificent ancient cultural assortments that have immense historical importance. But what are some of the objects that make his collection so valuable? What symbols and meanings are forever incorporated in them? And what stories do they reveal to the world? Is it a story that illustrates fascinating and tragic myths in Greek mythology? Could it be a story related to antique habits and rituals like funerals and sacrifice? Is it maybe a story of great craftsmanship and skills that Thracian people had? Or is it, perhaps, all of this…?
One of the most impressive silver vessels decorated with mythological scenes is a kylix with Theseus and the Marathon bull depicted on it. It represents a cup used for drinking wine during drinking parties and occasions. It dates back to the 445-440 BC and is now part of the Vasil Bojkov’s world-known collection. This kylix is quite interesting because of the story it carries with it. On its tondo (circular arrangement of the decoration on the interior) there is a gold leaf ornamentation and a scene portraying Theseus taming the Marathon bull that lived on the island of Crete. Plenty of sources share that the young Athenian hero went to Marathon and captured the mad bull using a club. Theseus, then, led it from Attica to the Acropolis, where he sacrificed it to the goddess Athena.
There is another silver kylix that once again interests us with its story and depiction of Orpheus. Usually, he is portrayed outdoors, sitting on a rock, and surrounded by Thracian warriors. While on this artefact, we see the legendary Greek musician from a different perspective. The kylix shows him in an indoor setting, supposedly at a symposium. He is playing on his cithara and there is a young companion next to him. The question is, who this might be?
Another quite intriguing item, in terms of its shape and mythological story contained, is a silver kantharos – a wine drinking cup largely used in Thracian culture. Apart from being interestingly decorated on the outside with gilded band of wine leafs and grape fruits, there is a scene in the inner bottom of the cup that is recognized by most of us. This is the scene in which infant Heracles strangles the serpents sent from the goddess Hera to kill him. The kantharos dates back to the late fourth and early fifth century, around 400-390 BC.
Of course, these are just a few of the many other examples of great artistry and craftsmanship left behind by the people of Thrace, their culture, way of living, beliefs, and traditions. And what’s really astounding is the fact that sometimes the simplicity of the shape is contrasted by the complexity of the story that all of these artefacts share with us.